Monday, March 26, 2012

Artisan Bread Series: Equipment and Ingredient Needs

Welcome to the first post in the Artisan Bread Series.  This post will give you some up-front information about what equipment you will need to buy (if any) for most of the recipes, as well as some basic ingredients that are used in most of the recipes.  You can use any brand of the supplies and ingredients that you like- I will share what I was able to find in the Midwest and where I purchased it.


  1. Oven Thermometer.  The book recommends that you purchase an oven thermometer to calibrate the oven and ensure it is baking at the correct temperature.  My oven is only a few years old and I have never had a problem with it under-baking or over-baking according to recipe times, so I skipped this step.  If you do suspect something going wrong in your oven, these thermometers are inexpensive and can usually be found anywhere kitchen furnishings are sold. 
  2. Baking Stone.  This is one thing you cannot go without.  The baking stone in these recipes will ensure your bread loaves are nice and crisp on the outside (especially on the bottom) without falling soggy.  Stones are porous and will absorb any extra moisture in your dough while baking.  These doughs are considered highly "wet" doughs, so this is important.  It will also ensure even heating throughout the oven.  These stones can range anywhere from $15 to $50.  I purchased the Bialetti 3-Piece Pizza Stone from Target for only $14.99, and it even came with an extra pizza cutter (something we can always use!) and a metal rack to set it on.  It works fantastic- I have zero complaints. In fact, I couldn't be happier with it.  Please read the manufacturers instructions on washing before using.  Like I said, the stone is porous, so it will take on detergents and soaps. 
  3. Large Tupperware/Container.  You will need a large container that can hold your risen dough in the refrigerator.  I like to use my KitchenAid Mixer to mix my dough, but I put it into a large, shallow tupperware to rise and store (I'm a little weird about my kitchen being "put together".  Can't be without my mixing bowl for a whole week or two!).  It will need to covered, but not airtight.  I place plastic wrap over mine and call it a day.
  4. Boiler Tray or Metal Pan.  This pan needs to be placed in the oven (along with the stone) during oven preheating.  Place it on the rack below the stone.  When putting in your dough to be baked, you will need to pour a few cups of warm water into the metal pan (glass will shatter, which my friend Jenni and I learned the hard way! duh!), which will create steam in the oven.  This will make your bread nice and crusty, giving it a nice, caramelized crust.
  5. Serrated Bread Knife.  When cutting your bread, that last thing you want to do is destroy your pretty creation.  A bread knife will cut (in a sawing motion) through the crust and crumb (inside) without compressing.
  6. Measuring Tools.  Obviously.  Cups and Spoons.  Some of the recipes call for 1/2 tablespoons, which are hard to find in spoon form.  Just remember that there are 3 teaspoons per tablespoons, so 1/2 tablespoon would be 1.5 teaspoons.
Some of the specialty breads (particularly dessert breads) require a special mold, but many of them are just loaf pans for fluted pans, which many bakers, such as myself, already have.

 These are the standard ingredients for many of the recipes.  If a recipe calls for anything else, I will explain it more in that particular post!
  1. White, All Purpose Flour.  Everyone has it.  Don't try and substitute or change the proportions of white flour in the recipes because the gluten content will be thrown off, not to mention the crispiness of your crust.  The book says to only use non-bleached flour because of unnecessary chemicals and loss of protein, but I used bleached in a bind and the bread turned out great.  Use what you like.  If you substitute bread flour, the bread will be extra chewy and you will have to decrease the amount of flour.  Don't use it, don't care.
  2. 100% Whole Wheat Flour.  Whole wheat flour is, clearly, the whole grain kernel.  It contains the germ and bran, which is removed to make white flour.  It's taste is nutty and provides fiber.  The germ has natural oils that prevent a crackling crust, so some of the recipes use only 1/2 cup.  The book does include (and I will bake them) a few recipes that are whole-wheat breads, but they have a soft crust.  I use Hudson Cream Whole Wheat Flour, which is $2.60 for 5lbs at our local grocer.
  3. Rye Flour.  Don't fear if you're thinking, "Uh, but I hate Rye Bread!".  You need it, trust me.  You will only use 1/2 cup in some of the recipes, too.  I use Hodgson Mill Stone-ground Whole Grain Rye, which was $3.50 at Walmart and $6.50 at the local grocer.  Uh, I will be going to Walmart!
  4. Corn Meal.  I found several brands (even store brand) for less than $1.50.  If you let your dough rise and bake on the corn meal, it will transfer to and fro more easily.
  5. YeastYou can find yeast anywhere.  I use the regular (not instant) yeast from Fleischmann's.  You can buy envelopes or a jar, but I prefer the jar.  It is cheaper and easier to measure.  After opening, keep the jar in the refrigerator.  I found this 4 oz. jar at Target for about $3.50.
  6. Water.  Use whatever water you drink at home- tap or filtered.  It needs to be lukewarm, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  7. Salt.  The recipes call for Kosher Salt, which is coarser than table salt.  I've substituted sea salt and it worked perfectly.  If you are using finer table salt, decrease the volume in the recipe by one-quarter.
 Wednesday, we will talk about various tips and techniques.  Happy shopping (or gathering)!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Artisan Bread Series

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for a quick and easy whole-wheat french bread.  We really liked it, but, to be honest, it left me wanting more. 
We love bread.  My mom used to buy those big baguettes from Walmart when we were in high school and my sister and I would eat half of the loaf before we got home.  When we lived overseas, we had the luxury of buying artisan breads just about every day.
Last year, my IRT (Instructional Resource Teacher, aka mentor buddy for first year teachers) recommended the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  I didn't have the time (nor the desire) at that time to bake our own bread, so I passed the information along to my mom and she bought the book.  Never having used it in the last year, my mom passed the book on to me over Spring break.  Good thing, because it changed my way of thinking as it pertains to baking bread.  I no longer buy preservative-filled, commercial breads.

Over the next 6 weeks, I'll be writing a series with some tips and recipes from the book.  That's about 2 recipes per week (with the exception of week 1- we'll have 3 posts!)  For the sake of my waistline (and pocketbook), I will not be baking my way through the cookbook.  I'll share my favorites and the things I like to eat and can use in lunch and dinner recipes.  Here are the topics we'll be covering:
  • Equipment and Ingredient needs
  • Terms and Techniques
  • Recipe:  European Peasant Bread (our favorite!)
  • Recipe:  Pumpernickel Bread
  • Recipe:  Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
  • Recipe: Spicy Pork Buns
  • Recipe: Prosciutto and Olive Oil Flatbread
  • Recipe: Pita
  • Recipe: Brioche Filled with Chocolate Ganache
  • Recipe:  Judy's Board of Directors' Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
  • Recipe:  Apple and Pear Coffee Cake
  • Recipe:  Blueberry Lemon Curd Ring
The purpose of this book is to show you that you can bake several different types of bread without slaving in the kitchen for hours.  Most recipes (if not all!) require that you not knead the dough.  To make it even better, the doughs can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or two, depending on which recipes you make, and baking within an hour.  They are easy, fun, and delicious.  You will not regret this series!  If you like these recipes, I highly recommend you invest in the cookbook!

Come back tomorrow for our first post- Equipment and Ingredient Needs.  Don't worry, you won't need much and might already have it.  There is a minimal initial investment, but it will pay for itself after just one recipe for two.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knees to the Earth

Happy First Day of Spring!
We just started our little garden-3 days ago-and we already have little radish sproutlets!

I was joking with Daniel the other day and was talking to my seeds and telling him I could see them growing.  I came home from work this afternoon and they did this!  He will be so excited to see.

Last night Daniel and I started a new devo on Hebrews.  We really enjoy studying actual books rather than doing topical studies.  Last night we focused on the radiance of Christ and the nature of his glory.  I feel like a lot of people in my life are in pain right now.  I'd be lying if I didn't say we've been sharing in some of that pain too.  What I love most about time in the Word is learning less about how important I am, but how glorious God is.  It helps me to consciously choose joy because of the assurance I have in Christ.

Yes, I am still obsessed with Watermark, so here is another one.  It popped up on my Pandora, I found it on youtube, and played it over and over and over again.  It's called "Knees to the Earth".


1 Peter 3:15:  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

My hope and joy is in Jesus!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Garden Party

Last Spring was the first we had in our new house and, although I really wanted to have a garden, we decided not to.  We had some other landscaping to do and pay for, so we thought it best to wait a year.  I thought that year would never come, but it's finally here!

A few weeks ago we picked out some seeds.  We are planting:
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Jalapenos
  • Bell Peppers (the "surprise" packet with purple, red, orange, yellow, green, and white ones.  Who knows what will sprout!)
  •  Cantaloupe (Daniel's idea.  He is obsessed)
  • Green beans
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Sweet Basil
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Blueberries and blackberries (Technically bushes.  We won't actually see their fruit until next year =(  Oh well!)
Today, we went and bought a seedling kit, soil, vegetable and fruit "food", and a watering can.  We started our seeds in the kit and will be growing them inside until we are safe from a hard frost, the seeds germinate, and are ready to be planted in the ground.  I will write about that when the time comes!
Here are all of our supplies:

Here is what we did:
 First, we used a silver sharpie to label each "group" of cells so we know what plant it is.  Then we filled each cell with soil without packing:
 Then, we put one seed in each cell.  Some of the seeds were tiny, some were huge!  We poked them down with our fingers until the seed was about half way down the cell.
Cover it back up with more soil.
We did the same thing with herbs, but we planted them in little pots and will keep them by the window in the kitchen.  We planted several herb seeds in each pot because the pots were so big.  Once done, water until you see it just leaking from the bottom (if using a pot with a tray) or until the soil is thoroughly damp:
The package claims that if you put the plastic "lid" back on the cells, it creates a greenhouse effect.  Hmm.  We will see! We have no great spot for sunlight in the house, so we are being hoosiers and keeping them on TV trays by our back door.  I'm sure company will think we are growing pot.

Can't wait to update you once our babies start to grow.. and share recipes using them!  So much of our grocery bill is fresh produce.  We will still have to buy some, but this will save us a lot of money!
Once we have kids, I think we will add more variety like carrots and peas and make our own baby food out of our own garden.  That and cloth diapers?  We are turning into total hippies.

Next week I will be starting a bread series, baking and reviewing several recipes.  The base for this bread is so easy and the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before baking.  No kneading.  You will love it!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DIY Chicken Stock

We like chicken.
A lot.
Our dinners usually consist of either roasts, 93/7 ground beef or chicken breast.  Seems pretty boring, but we actually get pretty creative.
Every once in a while, I will buy whole chickens when they are on super sale and roast them.  Sometimes we eat just roasted chicken, sometimes we "harvest" the meat, pull it, and freeze it for easy dinners later (quesadillas?  Enchiladas?  Soups?).  I used to throw the bones away, but I started making my own chicken stock and can't believe I haven't done it before.  It is SO easy and I trick myself into thinking it's free because we really bought the chicken for its meat.  Like it even more.
Here is how.

First, prepare and cook your bird (i.e. rinse and take out insides.  I suppose you could use the insides for your stock, but I think they are geeee-ross).  You can roast it, or you can cook it in a crockpot all day with any yummy seasoning you like.  I usually dump garlic, onion powder, parsley, lemon pepper, salt, normal pepper, paprika, and anything else I see in my spice cab.  If you cook it in a crockpot, fill the bottom of the pot with 2 inches of water before cooking.  Cook on low for 12+ hours.

Second, take off the meat.  Eat it or freeze it.  Save all the skin, bones, and etc.  Leave the extra juices in the crock pot.

Put the bones and etc. back into the crock pot.  Add:
  • 4 peeled and quartered whole carrots
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 quartered stock celery
  • GARLIC (i used like 5 tbps of pre-minced.  Don't judge)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 Bay Leaves
Pour enough water to fill it to the top.  Cook on low 12 hours.  I did this overnight.  Nothing like waking up to fresh brewed chicken stock.

Pour through a sieve into a separate bowl.  Toss all of the "bits".  You should be left with pure stock!

Chill in the fridge and skim off the fat from the top once it's hardened (the fat, not the stock).
I freeze them in ice cube trays or separate freezer bags so that I can use different parts at different times without waste.

And there you go.  DIY stock.  We ended up making some killer chicken tortilla soup.  If only everything else in life were so easy.
Skip To My Lou

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

No Not One

I've become quite obsessed with Watermark ever since my friend Julia's Wedding.  A song of theirs was sang in the ceremony.  What joy I experienced 5 months later when I realized I could create a Watermark Pandora Station and lesson plan to their wonderfulness every.single.morning.  Starting my day off reading God's word and working to Watermark has made a huge difference in my mood and actions throughout the day.  I heard this song yesterday and thought I would share (okay, technically it is by Christy Nockels, who is/was Watermark with her husband.  I think she singing solo now?  Idunno).
It brings to mind a few verses my FCA kiddos and I studied this week:

Romans 5:6-11
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

What a precious gift we have knowing God didn't wait for us to reconcile ourselves to him to be saved.  He loved us first and saved us while we were still sinners.

I hope you find encouragement in it!

No better word than from Your lips
No perfect life than what You lived
No greater gift, no not one

No brighter star has ever shined
No better hope for all mankind
No higher mind, no not one

No one has ever known
This kind of love You've shown
There has never been a greater love
Than Your son
No, Not one
And there will never be a name above
No, Not one

With His life You have forgiven us
Hope has come
Hope has come
And there will never be a greater love
No, Not one

No image true or sweeter frame
No simple word can match Your name
No greater fame
No not one

No one has ever seen
The depth of Your majesty

No greater call - You gave us all a reason to live
No greater love - You gave us all a reason to give
No greater life - You gave us all a reason to shine
No greater love - forever mine!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Whole Wheat French Bread

I confessed to a coworker yesterday that in an effort to be more frugal, I was going to start baking my own bread.
She scoffed at the fact that, yes, bread is only $1.69 (we buy the 100% whole grain wheat from Aldi).
Nonetheless, there is just something about being able to do something yourself.  The thought of being self-sustainable and being able to make and provide my own food makes me feel like a grown up- a smart one (or maybe it's the thought that my husband sits in his office in the middle of the day thinking about how awesome his wife is because she cooks, cleans, sews, takes care of him, works full time, send treats with him to work and bakes her own bread.  He does that, right?  OH, I am sure of it =D).

Daniel takes a sandwich to work almost every day, but other than that, we only eat bread with a meal if it's a special recipe, like paninis (this week, with this bread!  Recipe later).  I don't like to spend extra money on "special" bread for dinner.

So, let's make out own.  We can use it for lunches and paninis.  Yum.

  • 2 1/2 Cups Warm Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Oil
  • 5 1/2  Cups Whole Wheat Flour

Mix Yeast, Sugar, and Warm Water in a bowl and let sit 5 minutes.  It will look like this:

Add salt, oil, and flour.  Mix and knead for 5 minutes (or use your dough hook on a KitchenAid Mixer).  It will look like this:

Let sit, covered, for 20 minutes or until doubled in size. It will look like this;

Separate and roll into 2 "loaves" and place on a greased cookie sheet (okay, I foil, then grease so I don't have to clean my pans.  Don't judge).  Make slits in the top so they look like Aladdin Loaves (you know, the bread they have in Aladdin.  My sister and I are obsessed with it).  It will look like this:

Let rest for another 15 minutes while preheating oven to 425.  Place some ice cubes in a separate pan and place on the bottom rack while you bake your bread.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown! Let cool slightly.  Yum.

To get a nice, crispy outer crust, brush egg white on the outside the last 10 minutes of bake time.

We may or may not have eaten an entire loaf as soon as it was done.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

10 Tips for Thrifting

A lot of people ask me how I find such awesome Thrift finds.
Well, people, it's  a craft.
You have to learn a few tricks, buy some serious crap you probably should never have bought (and later regretted and ended up re-donating), and spend serious time in second-hand stores before you become a pro.
Here are 10 tips I've compiled that help me find great deals.

1.  Know your stores and the way they do things.  My favorite stores are those that organize by department, then by type, then by size.  There is nothing worse to me than trying to thrift when a store has organized by color.  Really?  Who wants to fish for a shirt when you have 300 orange shirts, XXS-XXXL mixed together?  My Favorite Goodwill allows me to pick a type of clothing I want, then go to my size.  I can choose from there as to whether any of the items are "worthy".  I am most successful at these stores.

2.  Picky about where your donations go?  Know where your cash is going by looking or asking who your thrift store donates to.  Most thrift stores are affiliated with a particular charity, while others aren't (these are usually labeled as "consignment" stores in which stores buy clothes from people and resell them).  Personally, I don't really care.  If I truly want to help someone else, I don't want something in return.  Me thrifting=cheap, great clothes.  Donations to charity are just a perk.

3.  Know your brands.  I am usually not a brand-whore, but I am when I thrift.  I do spend some time in the retail world and, being related to my sister and an avid TV viewer, I know what good brands are.  I know what brands fit my body well, and unfortunately it's not the cheap ones.  When I thrift for clothes, I check the size and brand, then assess whether the cost is worth that brand.  Let me get something straight-in the retail world, I don't care where my clothes come from, as long as they are cute, fit me well, and are inexpensive.  That being said, I don't think it's worth buying something from Walmart at a thrift store.  Retail isn't really that much more (or sometimes it's less).   I commonly look for Gap, Banana Republic, Anne Taylor, and J. Crew.

4.  Assess for quality.  Ask, "why is this here?  Is there something wrong with this?"  I would venture to say that at least half of the clothes in thrift stores are there because they were improperly cared for and washing incorrectly.  Ugh.  It breaks my heart.  I typically won't buy anything that is broken, unless I know I can fix it.  I also don't buy anything that is stained unless I know I can get it out.  You know those stains- the ones that really aren't stains, they're just a spill someone thought was a stain.  Shrunken, faded, or pilled clothes are no-nos.

5.  Assess for fit.  Try on the clothes at the store.  Don't turn up your nose at me, missy!  Suck it up and try the clothes on at the store and shower when you get home if you absolutely have to.  Don't get stuck assuming something will fit and get home only to find out it doesn't.  You will waste your money!  Sometimes I don't know something is wrong with a garment until I have it on anyway.  When thrifting, remember you are getting a serious deal.  Thrift fit is a little different than retail fit.  If I am paying retail for something, by golly, it better fit like a glove.  When thrifting, it's less of an exact science, but I can always alter it at home.  Nonetheless, do not buy clothes that don't fit just because they are cheap.  Again, waste of money.

6.  Profile neighborhoods.  This is going to make me sound like a snob, but look to shop at thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods.  Don't read too much into this, but it has been my experience that items at these stores are less worn, barely used, or not used at all and still have the tags on them.  Items in the opposite type of neighborhood are usually more worn and less current.

7.  Keep an open mind.  You don't have to keep the item the way you bought it.  I like to find pieces that are cute and interesting, then turn them in  to something else.  This skirt is a perfect example.  Loved the skirt, but it was 3 sizes to big, so I turned it into a dress.  A granny sweater can look current with leggings and a belt.
  8.  Shop the entire store.  I usually dedicate at least an hour to thrifting.  I like to look at everything.  You never know what you can find!  I always keep my eye out for little square baskets with liners to keep in the house, wall decor, board games, and baby items.  I found a brand new boppy pillow for $1.50 last summer!  Keep your loved ones in mind.  I'm a chronic gift giver, so I like to pick things up every once in a while to keep for those random little gifts.  Thankfully, my people like thifting too.

9.  Same rules apply for garage sales and Craigslist.  Check them often, especially in the season opposite of when you would use an item.  Two Februaries ago, I found an entire wrought iron patio set, rectangle table and four chairs, for $20.  It needed a little scrubbing and coat of paint, but it was a steal and I refinished it for $10.

so cute in your living room!"  Sometimes it take someone else to tell you to just clean something and it will look brand new.
    As always, set a budget.  Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's free.  You can still go into debt or go over budget buying thrift.
    Don't forget to give back and donate the things you don't use anymore to fuel the thrifting fire for others.

    Good luck and Thrift on!

    Skip To My Lou
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